Some useful resources for understanding the language and concepts that describe and distinguish between sex work, migration and trafficking.
They include documentation of the real, harmful consequences to sex workers of policies that conflate trafficking and sex work.
And they discuss how to approach human trafficking from a human rights based perspective; including recognising the wide range of experiences in between decent work and trafficking, and the need to address all forms of labour exploitation not just the most extreme.
Collateral Damage: the Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures on Human Rights around the World (Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, 2006)
Three countries in the Asia Pacific feature in this global research by GAATW (Australia, India, and Thailand). The research looks at the human rights impact of anti-trafficking policies on people living and work in these countries, or migrating in or out. It concludes that the available evidence suggests marginalised communities have suffered unacceptably negative consequences as a result of anti-trafficking efforts, and that enforcing law is not the same as upholding human rights.
Hit and Run: True Stories of Raids and Rescues (EMPOWER Foundation, 2011)
Landmark research by sex workers from Empower Foundation looking at the impact of anti trafficking policy and practice on sex worker’s human rights. “We have been spied on, arrested, cut off from our families, had our savings confiscated, interrogated, imprisoned and placed into the hands of the men with guns, in order for them to send us home… all in the name of “protection against trafficking”. It’s rubbing salt into the wound that this is called helping us. We are grateful for those who are genuinely concerned with our welfare … but we ask you to listen to us and think in new ways.”
Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific: Laws, HIV and human rights in the context of sex work (UNDP, 2012)
This 226 page report was the result of a thorough collaborative and consultative process with contributions from many stakeholders including technical experts, community sex worker organizations and individuals, and UN agencies. The study examined the diversity of laws that affect HIV responses in the context of sex work in the Asia Pacific region; assessed the impact of laws, legal policies and law enforcement practices; and made recommendations for actions required to create enabling legal and policy environments for HIV responses in the context of sex work.
Findings on laws, policies and practices that are harmful to HIV responses:
- Criminalization of sex work
- Punitive law enforcement practices
- Confiscation of condoms
- Criminalization of clients
- Licensing or registration
- Mandatory, compulsory or coerced testing
- Lack of labour rights and social security rights
- Denial of identity documents and citizenship rights
- Compulsory detention centres
- Anti-trafficking laws, policies and practices
- 100% Condom Use Programmes (CUPs)
The Right(s) Evidence – Sex work, violence and HIV in Asia (UNDP, UNFPA, APNSW, SANGRAM, 2015)
Six groups of sex workers in four countries collaborated with UN Agencies and civil society groups to conduct peer-led research into violence against sex workers. The study took place in Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and is published as a full report, and as a summary (both pdf).
Sex Work is Not Trafficking (NSPW, 2011)
This 12 page briefing paper explains how sex work and demand for sex work are conflated with trafficking. It looks at the legal frameworks and media coverage that cause this confusion. And it summarises the dangers of this confusion, including the harmful impacts on sex workers’ lives and work, and on sex worker led programming. The paper offers recommendations for policy makers, donors and civil society. (A shorter, 5 page version is also available.)
Migrant sex workers in Australia (Australian Institute of Criminology / Scarlet Alliance, 2015)
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), in partnership with Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, initiated a project to explore the demographics, work conditions, migration experiences and access to services of migrant sex workers in Australia. Most previous research in this area focused on sexual health or violence. Among the 592 sex workers interviewed, the majority were satisfied with their work conditions. The research also identified difficulties they faced such as accessing services and English language barriers.
Moving Toward Decent Sex Work (Empower Foundation, 2016)
Empower Foundation conducted sex worker community research into the working conditions of sex workers in Thailand. This report examines the ILO’s concept of “decent work” as well as other concepts such as forced labour and trafficking. It emphasises the wide range of working experiences between decent work and forced labour; and it calls for the application of a labour rights framework to address all mistreatment of sex workers – not just the extreme of exploitation that meets the trafficking definition.
A selection of art works produced by APNSW over the years in response to violence against sex workers caused by anti-trafficking policies and practice:
Caught Between the Tiger and the Crocodile (2012)
This documentary looks at the violence and abuses faced by sex workers in Cambodia caused by anti-trafficking policies (the crocodile) and 100% condom use policies (the tiger) both of which facilitate police violence and impunity.
(Content note: sexual violence testimony.)
“Bad Rehab” (2010)
A song and animated video using dolls to describe the real issues for sex workers in South East Asia who are forced into rehabilitation centres as part of the anti-trafficking rescue industry – only to be detained against their will and experience violence and abuse. This video was produced several years before the western mainstream media “discovered” the scandal of lies surrounding Somaly Mam in Cambodia.
(Content note: sexual violence.)
“One Whore” (2007)
A parody of the U2 track “One” which criticises the anti-sex work policies of former US President Bush, especially the “anti-prostitution” pledge in the PEPFAR (Aids prevention) policy, and in the anti-trafficking law.